By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/ TRT Columnist
I was surfing the Internet the other day looking for information on depression and I found a short video, which identified and explained some of the possible issues of someone who is battling depression. To my surprise, I had experienced many of the issues I saw in the video while I was transitioning to female. I ponder: maybe I didn’t realize that I was also possibly suffering from depression as I transitioned? I never addressed these issues because I was very focused to make sure that I followed up with the basic steps of male-to-female transitioning such as obtaining hormones, getting facial hair removed, acquiring letters from doctors, etc. Looking back, I now realize that I had more work to do.
The first issue I recognized from the video was feeling unworthy. Even though I wanted to transition, I sometimes felt like I was unworthy of even attempting to transition. Was I not worth all the effort to transition? The next issue I experienced was feeling unlovable. How could anyone love me? Why would anyone love me? I was already dating men, but all the men I dated were afraid to be seen in public with me. They were afraid that their friends and family would ask them, 1) If they were gay; and 2) why they didn’t go out with a cisgender woman? You see, I was out of my closet, but the men were still in their closets. This led to the next issue, feeling worthless. What kind of worth could I bring to the world? Would I even be taken seriously? I felt more connections to other issues of the video such as feeling defective, broken, stupid and ugly. I also felt like I was to blame for hurting the people in my life because I wanted to transition. This gave me a sense of shame, which is the innate sense that one is a bad person. As I look back, I find it amazing that I just simply put these issues to the side and instead, just concentrated on my transition to female.
Another issue from the video was based on validation. I did have a difficult time validating myself especially when others tried to erase my existence. I would hear, “You’re not a woman! You’re a man!” “You’re destroying your family and alienating your friends!,” “You are a narcissist!” and other invalidating questions. It was like I was being told I shouldn’t even try to transition!
The message I got was that I should just keep it in as I’ve always done. I should suck it up and resume my life as male because I would lose everyone in my life. How could I be so stupid and so selfish? If I continued, I would ruin my life and the lives of others around me and let’s face it, no one is ever going to love me. I will die alone with no love from anyone. Yes, I had issues with validating myself mostly because I was around people who were constantly trying to invalidate my trans existence.
Another issue on the depression video was experiencing fits of anger. I had those too. Sometimes, I became so frustrated that I would lash out at whatever/whoever was bothering me, no matter how small the incident was. Other times I felt like I was unraveling. Somehow, though, I just pushed all my troubles to the side and stayed the course to transition. My eyes were on the prize of transitioning.
Looking back now, I realized that over the years I eventually did deal with each of these issues. I’m currently in a much better place although now and then I still might feel less than rather than equal to others. These days I just acknowledge those emotions and feelings and go on with my life. Maybe I haven’t quite worked through everything yet or maybe I’ve worked through everything just enough for me to get by? I don’t feel fits of anger anymore as I am at peace with myself, so I guess that perhaps I’m just not at peace sometimes with some other folks’ views of me? In any case, I made it through my transition most likely through my sheer determination rather than dealing with all my issues. Eventually, I did work through these issues, or, at least worked through them well enough for me. I still don’t know if I was depressed or not but the video that I saw sure hit home to me in many ways.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has 3 children and two grandchildren. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.